Creativity & Failure

Big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Tesla are often seen as paragons of innovation. The products they make capture the public imagination, and they are almost always used as positive examples of innovative thinking.

The common characteristic, though, is that most incredible technologies spring out of environments where failure is welcomed. It takes creative thinking, iterative development, and tolerance for failure to develop these sorts of products.

For instance, Google famously had their 20% time, where engineers could work on their own skunkworks projects that may or may not have an immediate use to the company. Out of this 20% time came many of Google’s most loved products, including Gmail and Google Maps.

Where is the appetite for creative thinking, iterative development, and tolerance for failure in the public domain, particularly in the United States?

Take #basicincome for example. Can you imagine a US state or municipality starting a basic income trial with the political environment the way it is in the US right now? The argument for and against even commissioning trials would most definitely turn to the moral, not the practical.

How do we get out of this impasse? It seems to me that we have far too many moral preconditions in American public discourse, and we too often assume that we are unfailingly right in our ideology. We’re probably not right, most of the time. And that’s OK. The possibility of failure should not kill creative public energy.